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Lo que pasa en Colombia

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Lo que pasa en Colombia
So I finally made it to Colombia. Now what, I thought to myself. My first night had been as good as I could have hoped. I had arrived safely and gotten to my hostel in one piece, all without being robbed. I sat on the side of my bed and thumbed through my Lonely Planet travel guide looking for something to do; it was full of museums, bars, places of “historical interest,” and some other useless facts. I had never really liked traveling with guidebooks it seemed to me like it was planning my trip for me. Going to the same museums or going to the same restaurants with every other tourist to get a hamburger and fries didn’t seem like something I should be doing half way around the world. I ripped out the city map grabbed a card with my hostels address on it and headed for the door.
Usually hostels, hotels, and pretty much anything involving tourists are in the safer, more glamorous parts of town. I felt generally safe, maybe it was the Colombian army standing on nearly every corner armed with automatic weapons, or maybe I was just delusional. It was about ten in the morning and the fog that had encased the city the day before had lifted and turned to bright sun and blue sky. The city was surrounded by lush green mountains capped with snow off in the distance, the jungle almost spilled down to touch the towers of the tall buildings below.
The streets were crawling with people some in business suits talking loudly on their cell phones others in colorful native clothing selling freshly squeezed orange juice on the sides on the street. The street vendors were grilling their food giving off the strong sent of burning wood, charcoal and simmering meat.
Its funny what helps you remember sometimes, when I travel to different places I can take a thousand photos or write enough to fill ten journals but the thing that brings back the most vibrant images is the unusual smells. Whether it is a street market in Asia filled with the smells of strange spices and fruits, or the salty air of fish markets on the beaches of Cape Cod. When I’m home and catch the smell a strong spice or exotic fruit drifting in the outdoor air, I am immediately transported back to a street market in Chang Mai. The strong odor of a low tide, I’m back walking through Provincetown in the summer.
I put in my headphones and put on some Credence Clearwater Revival and started walking. I walked around for a good hour taking in the different landscape, people and letting myself get lost within the city. I stumbled across a large crowded street market that I thought it would be worth checking out and maybe get something to eat. I made my way across the street and looked inside; it was filled with hundreds of what I assumed were counterfeit soccer jerseys, bags, and all sorts of different clothing.
As I walked through different hawkers shouted and waved their poorly made t-shirts at me, I smiled and shook my head while I continued to walk forward. I heard more than a few people laughing and yelling “gringo” mixed a few other words I couldn’t quite make out. I got the feeling that I wasn’t putting myself in the best of situations, but I didn’t feel unsafe.
A few minutes passed and I had made my way to the food section of the market. It was about noon and the entire area was packed. I started to walk through to find something I could or would want to eat. The stalls were set up along the walls and had cheap plastic tables and chairs with plaid plastic table covers weighted down by dispenser that held waxed napkins. The food for sale did not look too appetizing they were selling everything from pizza to fried frogs on string. I thought to myself my stomach had not fully adapted to the food just yet to take a chance here.
I kept walking and glanced at a rather old obese woman sitting in front of a stall; I smiled and tried to make my way to the door. From my side I could hear someone loudly try to clear their throat almost instinctively I turned my head to look back. Just then I felt an enormous gob of mucus hit me in the right in the back of my neck, I had never been so repulsed in my entire life I wanted to vomit.
I noticed the whale like older lady started to laugh and point her finger at me I assumed it had been her. A younger woman came up to her and started yelling at her, while three or four people came to me and tried to help me clean up. They gave me a handful waxed napkins that absorbed nothing and some dirty water, I angrily muttered “gracias.” I had decided that I had had enough of the market and needed to go back and take a long hot shower.
I got out to the street and jumped in a taxi, I gave him the card with my hostel address on it. I sat back in the seat to think about what had just happened to me, unbelievable I thought to myself. As we approached my hostel I reached in my back pocket to get my wallet, I felt around and quickly discovered it was not where I had left it. My stomach dropped and I felt sick again, I couldn’t believe that I had actually been robbed and spat on in the same day.
I had 15 pesos in my front pocket left over from breakfast, and my ATM card in my locker in my room. I figured I might have lost all of forty dollars. I handed the rest of my money to the taxi driver and got out. I assumed that the entire incident at the market from the spitting to the three “helpful” Colombians had all probably been in on it. All for forty dollars, why didn’t they just come at me with a knife? I thought to myself, I have got to get out of this city.
I walked up stairs took a hot shower and fell into my bed. Following in my plan to leave the city I opened my guidebook and looked at cities to the north, one stood out in particular, Cali. That’s where I was going to go, visions of cartels and cocaine flashed in my mind. I booked my bus ticket and after a long and terrible day I headed down to the bar to get a beer and tried to find someone going in the same direction I was.

Posted by TylerJames 10:54 Archived in Colombia Tagged music lunch shop colombia rob wallet exploring Comments (0)

Yard Lao

Hard Time

Yard Lao

I had just arrived in Bangkok. I took an all night train from the southern boarder with Malaysia and really never got a full nights sleep, mostly due to the hot sticky weather that never seemed to go away even at night. Instead I laid awake listing to the clatter of the train going over the track and people talking on languages that I couldn't even begin to identify.
The train arrived early in the morning and the city seemed to be just waking up. From the train platform i could see some of the buildings that surrounded me, there was a thin haze that seemed to encapsulate the buildings masking the top floors. I collected my bags and walked toward the exit. I stepped outside and searched for a taxi, I saw the taxi stand but to the right of the stand was a group of younger men with motorcycles with a colorful covered cart attached to the back of it. I took the cart or "Tuk Tuk" without hesitation, and told the driver to take me to Koh San Road. Koh San Road is where the majority of backpackers either start or end their tours of South East Asia, many however end up just staying on this road where parties last all night and anything from alcohol, drugs, sex and even snake blood can be easily found for a price.
I walked up to my hotel and approached the counter. The older woman behind the counter spoke little english, she stared at me and said one word, "room" I shook my head and she led up a few flights stairs and showed me a one room windowless cell. There were blinds on one side of the room, but behind them was a stained bare wall. The bed was held up by four skinny wooden legs on a cracked cement floor. A wooden nightstand stood next to my bed with a shad-less lamp to give me light. I was exhausted from climbing the stairs so I put my bags down and paid the woman.I thought to myself that I should of spent the extra five dollars to get a better hotel, but five dollars seemed like too much when cigarettes cost just 25 cents and a beer for about double that.
I walked down into the lounge/lobby area where a small restaurant catered to the tourists on the street and the hotel's guests. I sat down at one of the tables and ordered a bowl of noodles and a beer. I opened my book to read but quickly lost interest and my eyes started to wander. There was a movie being projected on the wall, it was a bootleg copy of a movie that still was in theaters when i left home a few weeks earlier. I dazed into the streets and got lost in the traffic of people, i looked back over at a bulletin board next to the check in desk and saw a posting that caught my attention.
I walked over to the wall and read the advertisement describing the hardships and troubles of the various foreigners in the jails throughout Thailand, and encouraged tourists to visit these prisoners. I had recently read a book about an Australian who had visited and lived with an English prisoner in a prison in La Paz, Bolivia. I sat back down ate my noodles and drank my beer. I lit a cigarette and thought about how i would try and visit someone in the prison. The posting said to call the embassy and ask if anyone was accepting visitors in the area jails. I looked up the number to the US embassy and gave them a call.
A rather official distinctively militaristic but at the same time friendly voice answered the phone. I introduced myself and asked if there was any chance of getting a name of someone in the prison. The man seemed surprised and asked why i would want to do something like that. I didn't have an answer to that question, I said I wanted to help someone out in need. He came back rather quickly for such a strange request, the inmate's name was Sandra O'Conner from South Carolina.
Getting the name of the prisoner would be the easy part, the women's prison was about an hour away from downtown Bangkok. Getting by in the touristy areas without speaking any Thai was relatively easy, I wasn't so sure it would be the same where i was going. I looked in my guidebook to see if i could find the directions there but found nothing. I searched on the internet and found a site offering the address. I asked the woman at the front desk if she could write down directions to the prison in Thai, after twenty minuets of hand singles, jumbled words and pictures she finally handed over directions.
To get to the prison i had to take a river boat one hour up into a dirty suburb of Bangkok. The ride wasn't as enjoyable as I had thought the water looked almost like it had a slick of oil coating the top and the smog of the city cut off any chance of sightseeing. I had given the directions to the boat driver, along with fifty Baht and he seemed to indicate that I had arrived at my stop. I walked up the dock and onto the street expecting to see the prison, but no luck. I seemed to be the center of attention, all eyes were on me which I can't really say made me any more comfortable. I quickly looked around for a cab.
After walking around for a few minuets i found a Tuk-Tuk. I handed the driver the address and he smiled and shook his head. Approaching the prison was something i went over in my mind as being almost like entering a something out of a vietnam prisoner of war camp. High cement walls with machine gun nests perched at the top complete with search lights maneuvering their way around the grounds. To my surprise the entrance was surrounded by manicured grass and hedges beautiful roses surrounding the sign welcoming people to the prison. I thought that this couldn't be the right place and i asked the driver, he understood nothing i said and shook his head and pointed.
I walked up to the door and up to the front desk, surprisingly the attendant was quite pleasant and spoke some english, I told her who i had come to see and she took my passport and asked my relation to the prisoner. I quickly responded that she was my aunt, she smiled and pointed me to the waiting room down the hall. I was the only foreigner in the room, it was filled with Thais and their families. There was a small cafe a shop and even a massage station. I had arrived about thirty minuets early so i had some time to kill. I toyed with the thought of getting a massage and ended up caving and went in and got a foot massage.
Time must of escaped me because a guard eventually came in saying my name over and over and pointing to the door. I was late, and i felt awful what was i going to say to the person I was about to visit? "Sorry I'm late I was getting a massage. How's life in prison?" I was escorted in through a series of gates and barred doors into a narrow cramped room with bars and glass dividing the room in two. There was small privacy shutters for each visitor space and a bench on either side of the glass. I was led down the room and politely pointed toward my seat.
I immediately came into eye contact with Sandra. She smiled and I could tell she had done her best to look her best despite being in a Thai prison. She had shoulder length curly brown hair that looked as if it hadn't seen a comb in years. Her skin was pale and aged, it looked as though she hid from the sun but still suffered the effects of it. She couldn't of been out of her thirties but to look at her you'd say she was twenty years older. Her eyes were blue had a distressed emptiness to them, she may once have been beautiful but that simply wasn't their anymore. It was if i was starring an empty shell that smiled and made every attempt to be nice.
I said hello as I sat down, and she immediately asked where I had been and that we only had twenty minutes to talk. I stumbled and said how difficult it was to get around Thailand. She laughed and I asked her how she was doing. She said she was fine and doing the best she could but living within the prison was extremely difficult. She went on to talk about her living conditions, "At night we are all locked in a cage and sleep together on the floor. There are so many women in here we have to sleep on our sides, rats and roaches sometimes run over and between us as we slept. Its terrible."
Sandra was no innocent victim of a cruel corrupt government. She had been caught at Bangkok international airport with 999 grams of heroin. She said she had gotten it in the northern provinces near Chang Mai and gave me no more information about where she was going or how she was caught. Subsequently she said when the custom officials presented her to the courts they only said she had 250 grams of heroin, the remaining amount somehow disappeared. At first she was at first given the death penalty, but later appealed the decision and received thirty years.
Sandra went on talking about her living conditions, "sometimes the guards will take me up to their quarters to watch soccer games and snort heroin." The manner in which she told me this was so casual it gave me a chill. I got the impression that there was more to that story but I felt uncomfortable going any further. Apart from these few details Sandra was more interested learning more about me; why was I in Thailand? Where I was going? Where have I been? I quickly told her about heading north into Laos and into Vietnam then through Cambodia. She commented how much she loved Laos and how she used to smoke opium there. Most importantly though, she wanted to know of news from back home.
It had been six months since she last received a visitor or talked to anyone outside the jail. News wasn't allowed in the jail and the only information she got from the outside world was from visitors or other inmates, which for the most part Thai news. At the time Hurricane Katrina had just flooded New Orleans. I told her this and how many people had died and that I didn't know much else. She seemed saddened and said she used to love going to Louisiana and New Orleans.
A bell went off which signaled for the prisoners to start to head back to the main prison. The guards came in and started to grab the prisoners and push them toward the door. She smiled, I asked if there was anything I could do to help her. She asked me for coffee, peanut butter and toilet paper from the prison store. She stood up and asked for me to write her at some point telling where I was in the world. She smiled and it was over. No great advice, quote or lesson, it was just her and her situation. I was escorted out of room and back into the lobby. I bought the things she had asked me for and signed my name out at the front desk. There was a taxi stand outside, I got in and gave the driver my hotel address. I watched as the prison slowly disappeared in the smog of the city.

Posted by TylerJames 16:34 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand prison american jail opium heroin Comments (0)

La vida de otros

The lives of others

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La vida de otros
(The Life of Others)

15,827 feet above sea level Potosi, Bolivia is the highest city on earth. It was during Spanish rule the richest and largest in terms of population, at more that 200,000 people. The mountain Cerro de Potosi looms over the town and casts a early shadow on the city each afternoon even in the summer the temperature never really reaches anywhere near something that would be considered warm or comfortable. You can see in the faces of the indigenous people the effects of generations living at this altitude and climate. Their bodies are smaller and have a more round figure that makes it easier for them to get oxygen at this altitude.
The city of Potosi was once the center of the Spanish empire in the Americas. More than a million Africans and Indians were enslaved to work within the mines extracting the gold and silver which made Spain the wealthiest empire on earth. I knew very little of this when I arrived in Potosi. All i had heard was that it was a must do while traveling through Bolivia. Taking a tour through a mine where the conditions are unbearable and more than one hundred thousand people may have died. I remembered what Laura, a South African girl i had met while in Lima said about the mine tour,"it was one of the coolest things i have ever done, but i will never do it again. I'll never bitch about my day job again" Why not?
I signed up for the tour through my hostel. The van would be by in the morning to pick me and the other people up at 7am. I asked if there was a later tour but they said it wasn't possible, I cringed at waking up before ten on a vacation and i thought of ditching the whole thing. The next morning was cold I was sitting outside drinking a cup of coca tea smoking a cigarette watching the fog gently lift from the city which gave way to bright sun with a crisp blue sky. I got lost in the peace of the clouds and the silence over the city and thought about the massive amount of history that this city must of been part of. The small van arrived at around eight, a hour late. Three men jumped out of the van dressed in dirty overalls covered in dirt and soot.
They spoke only in spanish and I spoke no spanish. There were five other people that had signed up for the tour, most of whom didn't speak spanish either but their was one Israeli who could. He actually could speak five languages and he made sure everyone knew that about him, he reluctantly translated for us when it suited him. The tour guides introduced themselves and went on to speaking, I couldn't understand a thing past their names. It didn't necessarily matter to me that I couldn't understand them I was excited about the tour and experiencing something that was so cool and at the same time i would never want to do again.
We got in the van and the guides brought us up the mountain to a section of the town where most of the miners lived. The guides let us out of the van and told us that it would be a good idea if we bought something to give away to the miners as gifts. They suggested; grain alcohol, coca leaves and above all, dynamite. I was impressed how easily anyone could buy dynamite, it cost about two dollars and came complete with a matchbook, a wick, the dynamite stick and a mixture of some chemical to make a more powerful explosion. I bought four sticks, a bottle of alcohol and a bag of coca leaves all for about nine dollars. I packed all of it away in my backpack.
The guides then took us into their shop where they gave us rubber boots, a jacket and a hardhat with a lamp. We walked over to a large truck and got in its back bed along with a few other miners. The truck started and headed up to the entrance to the mine. The entrance was almost like going into a train tunnel their was a small track leading deep into the darkness of the mine, and what seemed like dark black oil that coated and stained the walls surrounding the entrance.
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There was a hold up with us entering the mine and the Israeli translator never thought of letting everyone know why. After about twenty minuets of waiting more and more miners started to fill the small area in front of the mine's entrance. Their was a noticeable sense of excitement in the air. The miners were talking and cheering all while stuffing their mouthes with handfuls of coca leaves. A large llama was pulled down from behind the mountain to the entrance of the mine. The animal was trying to escape its eyes seemed to try and crawl away toward its freedom, the miners pulled at the rope tied around its neck. They pulled at it dragging it toward the mine's entrance.
The guides started saying something and the Israeli laughed and nodded his head, still no reason in his mind to let us know what was going on. The miners pushed at llama down to its knees and onto its side. They brought out a few plastic bowls and a knife. They pushed the llamas head to the ground and pulled its jaw back. One of the miners took the knife and pushed it against the llama's neck and started to saw at its neck. The llama started to cry and shake violently, a few of the other miners held the animal down as the the man with the knife continued to try and break the animals skin. It was almost as if he was trying to hack through a tire the animals skin would not give into the blade of the knife.
The knife wasn't sharp enough and the miner continued to hack at the llamas neck with it continuing to cry. A woman came up to the miner and handed him another knife. The animal continued to scream as the miner let up to change knives. The man took the new knife and within a few storks blood began to pour from the slit. The screams of the llama were then replaced by a gargling struggle as the animal drowned in its own blood. As the blood poured from its neck the plastic bowls that the miners had brought out were placed under the animals neck to catch the blood. Then the blood of the llama was thrown over the entrance to the mine.
Within minuets the black stained entrance to the mine was red with the blood. I looked back down at the lifeless body of the llama as the miners had already began to cut the stomach open and pulling the meat off the carcass. The grain alcohol was being passes around, one miner turned to me and poured a shot. Even though it was pushing ten at the latest i took the shot and fought to keep it down as it burned my throat. The Israeli finally told us what the guide had been saying. The miners were sacrificing the llama to Pacha Mama or mother earth. They believe due to the fact that throughout their generations, thousands of people have died and continue to die because the devil or Tio, lives within the tunnels of the mines. This sacrifice was to appease him, give thanks to Pacha Mama for allowing the miners to take silver from the mountain and to protect the miners.
The guides signaled for us to follow them into the entrance to the mine where the blood of the llama was still dripping down the sides of the wall. Along the side was a shrine to a horned Tio covered with coca leaves, cigarettes, beer and a fresh glass of llama blood.
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Posted by TylerJames 09:40 Archived in Bolivia Tagged strange llama bolivia mine potosí blood miners Comments (0)

I hate salad

A test

I Hate Salad
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the world its infrastructure is virtually nonexistent. I spent about a month backpacking through some of the mountain ranges around La Paz, hiking in the Amazon, and driving through the largest salt flats in the world in the countries' southern region. I had always heard about people getting sick and the odd traveler telling horror stories about their bouts with parasites and other problems. It was perceived by many travelers as almost a badge of honor, something that proved you were a traveler that took risks and didn't care about the danger that may follow.
To be honest while I enjoyed the late night bar stories from other travelers about parasites and poisonings but I had little desire to get to know these stories first hand. The problem was I really enjoyed eating the food of the people of the country. Street food is something I feel represents the people of a given region and culture. I loved walking out of my hostel each morning and getting freshly squeezed orange juice, then having empanadas or charque de llama for dinner.
There is a section of La Paz that is about a mile long and is packed with small food stalls, the smell of burning charcoal and simmering meat fills the air. On a budget of about four dollars you are able to eat like its Thanksgiving; hot sausages with French bread, roasted pig with potatoes, balls of corn with cheese and meat wrapped in cornstalk and steamed, grilled Lama, and the ever present hamburgers. I ate this food throughout my entire stay in Bolivia without any problems, apart from maybe gaining a pound or two.
During my last night in Bolivia I was staying in the small town of Tupiza which is about an hour or two north of the Argentine border. The town is a dive; it is a small dusty old mining town that is past its prime. Tall colorful barren mountains surround the small town almost like prison walls. The streets were cracked and dusty and the city center's park was a patch of dead brown grass and tall dry trees. The few statues their along with the walls of shops and buildings were marked with red, yellow and blue political lettering and pictures of Che Guevara. The only really interesting fact of this town is that it is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed. I disliked the town from the moment I had arrived.
I had to stay in this town for the night while waiting for my bus south to the Argentine boarder. I had been away from home for about three months and I was feeling like I wanted a taste of home, at least in my mind. I went out and looked for a restaurant, there were only two to choose from and neither looked very good. I went with the one that had the most people. The restaurant was nothing more than a small store front. The door was a cheap plastic screen that dragged on the floor as I opened it and made a loud scratching sound as, causing the entire restaurant to look up at me. The brown tile floor looked as old as the mountains and roads outside, the stained white walls were covered over with Bolivian soccer posters and what I assumed were popular musicians of the country. There were about half a dozen plastic tables with plastic red table clothes held down with a plastic waxed napkin dispenser and shaky wooden chairs. I took a seat in the corner.
I picked up the stained paper menu and looked over what I could eat. I wanted something to remind me of home, I ordered a salad with some pasta bolognese and a Pacena beer. The food was terrible the salad was tasteless, the meat tasted like rubber and the pasta was overcooked and almost a resembled a creamy mash, the beer however was fine. My check was two dollars which I quickly paid and left to return to my hostel to try and get good nights sleep before my bus. I had to be up at three to get to the bus station and make sure I got on. I was woken up around midnight with some of the worst pains I have ever felt in my life.
My stomach sounded like an angry dog, forcing burps that tasted like spoiled eggs. I rolled to my side groaning, bringing my knees up to my chest and blanket over my head, trying to hide from the pain that was rolling in like waves. The pain seemed to increase with each wave, it felt like something was tearing at my insides. My mouth was dry and my tongue felt thick with a texture of sandpaper. I reached over to my night stand for my bottled water which was nearly empty and took a sip. I immediately felt ill and fell out of bed and crawled to the trash can in the corner and threw up all the water I just drank and some of the food I ate.
I didn't have a bathroom in my room; although I was offered a room with a bathroom for more money at the time I didn't see any reason to spend an extra three dollars. The only bathroom was down the stairs at the end of the hall. I went over in my mind almost dreaming that I had made it to the bathroom, only to wake up in my bed in more pain. I struggled to get the strength to walk to the bathroom, all the while cursing myself for not spending the extra three dollars to have a private in-suite bathroom.
I crawled out of bed and managed to put one flip flop on and put my shirt, I fumbled with the buttons but quickly gave up and pushed the door to my room open. I fell out of my doorway to the hallway wall and tried to balance myself on the railing. I reached the stairwell and was in so much pain I sat down and fell asleep for at least a half hour. I awoke and wished I was back in my bed and thought about going back.
I continued shaking in pain and guided myself down the stairs to the ground floor. An old woman was cleaning the kitchen and looked over at me in my old boxer shorts an unbuttoned blue shirt, one flip flop and probably smelling of vomit and sweat. She started to yell at me in Spanish and in my state at the time I understood nothing I mumbled something that was neither English nor Spanish and even I didn’t understand. She shook her head and went back to cleaning her kitchen. I found the door to the bathroom and fell inside. I stayed there for about an hour; getting sick, falling asleep, getting sick again, and again falling back asleep on the cold tile floor.
I continued this; crawling back and forth from my room to the bathroom at least a dozen times. In Bolivia toilet paper it not customarily for toilet paper to be kept in the stalls for the enjoyment and pleasure of the guests. You are expected to bring your own or buy some from the attendant. I knew this but the dozen or so trips I had made to relieve myself had quickly depleted my stash. My complete state of helplessness was in full view. I used anything from napkins, ATM receipts and old socks, I carelessly searched through the old lady's newly cleaned kitchen for paper; it was truly a low point in my life.
The next morning slowly came and my pain was still in full force. I dreaded the thought of spending any time in a Bolivian hospital, but i feared my pride would soon have to be relinquished in order to help myself. I was out of fresh water and drinking from the tap was out of the question. I knew I had to muster up the strength to walk to the store and buy water, food and antibiotics. I had no energy, I looked like a pale old man with the strength of a small child. I managed to roll myself out of bed put my shorts, shirt, flip flops, a hat and sunglasses. I stumbled to the door.
From then on I had an out of body experience. The pain I was in seemed to disappear and I was almost able to see myself walking down the dirt road. It was a clear sunny day, a high crisp blue sky set far above my head. It was cool out and the same smell of charcoal and simmering meat filled the air. I walked in to the corner store and picked up two, two liter bottles of of water a bag of Oreos, a bottle of antibiotics, a sandwich and a coke to give me a sugar rush in order to get back to my room.
I handed the man behind the counter money and left. My head started to spin and I felt weak my skin got cold and my knees gave out. I fell down on the stairs and closed my eyes drifting lightly in and out of sleep. I opened the coke bottle and took a sip, it did very little. I knew I had to get back to my small room. I got up and stumbled back down the street in full pain shooting throughout my entire body. I got to the front desk and asked for another night, I Immediately upgraded to their best room.
I was hoping for something with a TV, room service but I would settle for something with a toilet. I was now in a room which was the same size as my other room but this had a toilet with a shower head coming down from the celling in the corner of the room, a drain was in the middle of the room. The white tiled floor was cracked and stained and the walls were a shade of pale yellow as if they were coated with cigarette smoke for years. An in-suite bathroom was taken very literally in Bolivia. I didn't care I fell into the bed and the pain continued to rip through my stomach. I took a few pills and exhaustion from my walk to the store caught up with me.
The pain again woke me up about five hours later I thought it would help to take a shower and clean myself up. I thought about this for an hour or so trying to build up my strength to walk over and turn the water on. Finally I managed to get the strength to pull myself out of bed and walk over to the shower head in the corner of the room.
Showers in Bolivia, are two words that do not go together. I have come to the conclusion that nobody ever really bathes. Then showers in Bolivia, or at least the ones I have had the pleasure of experiencing are nothing more that a water pipe protruding from the wall and bent to form a shower hear. The thin rusty pipe above your head drips and has slowly been rotting away at the wall. On the end of the pipe is an small box with two exposed electrical wires, that run from the box down to the floor and into the wall. This box is the water heater and in order to operate it you need to switch the current on and connect the two exposed wires. No matter how skilled you may be as an electrician you always would end up being electrocuted.
Unless I wanted to take a cold shower I was going to have to shock myself. I turned the water on and within a minuet I had cold water sporadically flowing out of the leaky pipe. I stared at the water flowing down the tiles and to the drain in the center of the room while trying to cope with the pain. I lifted my head and looked up at the white box and two exposed wires. I touched the wires and slowly started to bring them together. Nothing. I then touched the power switch and as i lifted the small switch suddenly I felt a strong shock that pushed me to the floor and burnt my hand.
Immediately the lights and power in the entire building went dark. My hand was throbbing and bleeding, with the waves of pain still tearing my insides apart. I grabbed an old t-shirt and wrapped my burnt hand, while I crawled back onto the bed. Within a few minutes I heard a knock at the door. I groaned and a man from downstairs at the desk opened the door. He looked angry and pointed to the shower, apparently he had told me not to use the shower because it had a tendency to short out the fuse in the building.
I didn't care. I shouted back in my broken spanish,"llameame una doctor" or call me a doctor. I had given up and desperately needed professional help. I could see that the man was still angry as he walked over to the wall where a small fuse box was and opened it and replaced the fuse with a small coin. The lights came back on and the man looked over at me. He spoke quickly in spanish, of which I understood very little. The words I was able to make out were; "manana" meaning tomorrow, "vas a venir un doctor" a doctor will come. I said thank you and the man stood their with his hand out as if i should tip him.
Normally I would not tip someone for providing me a room that i had paid more to be able to have a shower and than was electrocuted by that shower but I was in no state to argue with him. I reached into my pocket and gave him a crumpled up one hundred Bolivian note, double what I had paid for my room. I asked him again for a doctor, he looked down at the note and shook his head.
Within the hour I heard another knock at my door and a voice, "doctor." A middle aged man walked in the door with a small black leather medical bag. He smiled at me and sat down in a small wooden chair and unpacked his bag. It was as if he already knew what was wrong and what he had to do. He picked up a thermometer and gave it to me. He said something in spanish and pointed to his stomach. I shook my head and said I had eaten something.
The doctor smiled and said, "solo en Bolivia" or only in Bolivia. He then reached into his bag and took a needle out he filled it with medicine. He stuck the needle in my arm without asking my permission. The doctor then placed a small bottle of pills on the desk and handed me a bill. One hundred dollars. It seemed expensive but I had no choice, i handed him some money and he told me to rest for two more days.
He closed up his bag, smiled at me again and left. The medicine that he gave me was strong, it knocked me out for a good 14 hours. When I woke up the next day my stomach was still in pain but much noticeably calmer. The next two days i spent the majority of my time taking the doctor's pills and sleeping. Finally on the third day I felt my stomach finally feel as if it was normal again. I was able to walk around my room and stretch. I wasn't one hundred percent as i could still feel how sensitive my stomach was.
I wanted nothing more than to leave the country and never come back. I got dressed, packed my bag and headed down the stairs. I paid for the room and stepped back out to the cracked dusty streets, tall barren mountains and bright blue sky. Anywhere else it would of been a nice day, i got into a cab and drove directly to the bus station and bought the next bus south.

Posted by TylerJames 11:18 Archived in Bolivia Tagged food sick bolivia tupiza posining Comments (0)

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